by Carol Wagner, RDC
As 20-30 refugees were left at the entrance of the welcome center at various times each day, volunteers would leave their work to form a welcome line, to clap and greet each new family as they walked silently, filled with fear, into Casa Alitas.
After a blessing, the first message to any group was from a Spanish-speaking volunteer: Welcome, we welcome you. You are here… You are free… to come and go…
And this is what we would like to offer you - food, a shower, a clean mattress or cot to sleep on… And then we will assist you in calling your families or sponsors, and arranging how and where you are going here in the US. We used maps to show them we were, and where they were going, with advice about what kind of shoes and clothing they could choose at the thrift shop.
The warm welcome and hot soup often caused mothers to weep, while the stuffed animals and games made frightened kids faces light up. During one interview, a boy of 6 was told several times, “Welcome – you are here… You made it. You are in the United States…”
When he finally understood he what the volunteers was saying, realizing he had nothing to fear – he jumped up and down clapping! “Yes! Yes! Hooray!” And the volunteer continued in Spanish, “You can get to your grandmother, your uncle, your cousin – and we will help you get there!” The women, children and families - are so resilient - so beautiful – so vulnerable and filled with fear, but also such hope and gratitude!! Their life journey took them away from home, away from violence, seeking shelter, safety, peace and a new home… a place to live and grow, a community - to belong to. Their life journey and ours began IN Divine Compassion, and continues in Divine Compassion, when we welcome the stranger,
and open our hearts to healing and hope, all the blessings God promises and offers us to share!
Questions for each and all of us to reflect on:
1)How can I pray for AND use my resources, gifts and talents to help refugee families –
2)How can we use our collective voice and impact policies that promote peace and justice for all peoples, all creation – on this beloved planet we call home, home to us all ?